Malaria and the Zika virus might not be a worry in the UK, but mosquito bites and the itching they cause drive many of us crazy.
A lot of people use DEET insect repellent to turn mosquitos off their scent, and although scientists have yet to prove the chemicals in DEET are bad for us, there is a lingering uncertainty about its safety.
So what are the other options?
We’ve put together some ways to fight off the pesky bloodsuckers and added in some remedies just in case you do end up getting bitten.
Lower the risks of getting bitten by a mosquito
There are some things you can’t do much about – like your blood type. It’s believed those with Type O blood, are bitten twice as much as people with Type A. Type B blood falls somewhere in between.
Here are some ways to avoid mosquitos:
- Mosquitos are attracted to dark colours like navy and black, so wearing lighter colours could help.
- Avoid going outside 30 minutes before dawn and 30 minutes after dusk – this is when mosquitos are most active.
- Plant some herbs in your garden, or scatter potted herbs around the areas that you hang out in. Mosquitos don't like the smell of mint, rosemary, basil, lemon, thyme, jasmine, lavender or garlic.
- Get some citrus scented candles – oil of citronella is great for turning mosquitos away.
- Many people spray insect repellent on their skin. The most active ingredient in insect repellent is DEET, and this is available in concentrations from 4–100%. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the US, advises parents not to use insect repellent on babies, and if used on older children it shouldn’t contain more than 10% DEET.
If you don’t like the thought of a chemical-based repellent, why not knock up a homemade one?
Mix together the following:
- 10ml of one essential oil: citronella, clove, lemongrass, rosemary, tea tree, eucalyptus, cedar, lavender or mint
- 90ml of distilled witch hazel
- If the concentration is a bit strong, add some distilled or boiled water to dilute
Pour the ingredients into a spray bottle and shake. Then spray on your skin or clothes.
Remember: Spray your homemade repellent on a small patch of skin first to test for any allergies.
What to do if a mosquito bites you
So you tried to avoid getting bitten, but the mosquito found you anyway. What next?
An itchy mosquito bite is up there with mouth ulcers and hay fever – deeply, deeply irritating.
First of all, try not to itch, and if a child is bitten, cut their nails short: scratching and breaking the skin can cause infection.
For relief, you can head into your local pharmacy and buy creams, cooling sprays or oral antihistamines.
Natural remedies to mosquito bites
If you don't have time to head to the shops, or you’d rather try soothing your bite naturally, then try one of these…
- Ice: place an ice pack or ice cube on the bite to cool the area down and reduce swelling. Or, you could run the bite under cold water.
- Lemon: cut a lemon in half and rub it on the bite.
- Aloe vera: chill some aloe vera gel in the fridge for 15 minutes, then rub it onto the bite area.
- Toothpaste: like those pesky zits you used to get as a teenager, toothpaste can also help some people with bites.
- Garlic: garlic is meant to soothe bites, so grab some minced garlic and rub it on.
- Tea tree oil: pour some onto a cotton ball and dab your bite — it also has antiseptic properties, so will help fight against infection.
And as we mentioned above, always try a skin test first to prevent any further irritation.
Cut young children’s nails short, because breaking the skin can cause infection
When to seek medical attention
It’s rare, but it is possible to have an allergic reaction to a mosquito bite, which can complicate things. Call the emergency services immediately if you experience any of the following signs of anaphylaxis (a life-threatening allergic reaction):
- Sudden anxiety
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest tightness
- Itching of the eyes, lips or other areas of the face
As well as allergic reactions, bites can also become infected. If you have a fever, the bite feels hot to touch or becomes painful, or it develops into bruising or a blister, then you should also seek medical advice. If your bite is infected, an antibiotic is the typical treatment.
Mosquito bites are annoying, but they’re not the end of the world. Just remember, scratching makes everything worse and can increase the chance of infection.